Pentecost 3C 2019 : Luke 9:51-62

Our passage deals with the beginning of the journey, especially the call to discipleship and what it means.  But first Jesus must make his way through Samaria.  Given the mutual hostility, it is credible that in some Samaritan villages Jews would not be welcome.  Racism, whatever inspired it, catches up Jesus and his followers. … In the story James and John want Jesus to call down fire from heaven upon the Samaritans like Elijah did in 2 Kings.  Let’s stamp out racism!  Let’s hate those who hate us! Jesus will have none of it.

… In calling followers … Jesus did all the wrong things from a growth perspective.  He was in danger of losing everyone if he carried on like that.  Hanging alone on a cross is not success. …  [Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but Jesus has no such secure home: we have a contrast between this human being and the animals.] … Against that background, laced with political allusions, the saying of Jesus belongs in the context of the journey upon which he is embarked, a journey that will end on a cross – and then victory!  It is the path of suffering which Jerusalem’s inhabitants knew when Antiochus Epiphanes crushed their spirits in 167 BCE and which only through the exploits of Judas Maccabeus carried them to deliverance and glory in 164BCE, the setting for the book of Daniel.  To join Jesus is to join the march for freedom, the journey for liberation, the path through danger to hope.

The second encounter shocks our sensibilities and sounds like the counsel of fanaticism. …. [Let the dead bury the dead, you follow me]: in disallowing this person to fulfil their sacred family obligation, Jesus is not driving a wedge between family and the kingdom of God, but he is indicating a conflict of interest.

Shock tactics can be offensive.  This is doubtless meant to be offensive.  It does not want to be explained and certainly not as a new way of treating parents.  Its violence challenges family values with a higher claim of allegiance.  It is not founding an institution or setting up a principle, but wresting control from cherished values so that we see another perspective.  It asserts God, the reign of God, not as a manipulation of fanaticism, but as the highest value. ….

Rather it can make sense as a call to radical compassion which may challenge all other calls to caring.  Mostly it will generate all that caring in family which is so central, but love remains and sometimes it must break established priorities.  Less dramatically, but just as relevant, people’s dedication to ‘family values’ frequently blinds them to real caring and at worst inspires hate and discrimination.

    William Loader
    (summary of notes)